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Being Santa, Remembering John Again

I have been away for a while from ClausNet. For that I am sorry, as I notice that a few of my friends have messaged me here and I have not answered them. Of all the Summers I have had thus far, this has certainly been one of the most interesting. I should say this has been an interesting year, as much of it began for me right after the Jim Yellig Workshop. You see, I left that event on a very high note. It was a note that I still feel today. Think of it, those who were there really and truly touched history. It is a history that I am proud of and am ever increasingly growing protective of in my own way. I will explain how and why I say that in a few moments. Needless to say, after touching that history and the honor that goes with it I have began questioning certain aspects in my own personal life with Santa and of the Santa community. Upon my return home I became involved with a discussion of why we do the things we do - especially why we of the real bearded persuasion dress in red all year long. Does it truly benefit the kids was my question. Nearly every Santa I spoke to gave me an "I" statement as opposed to an answer that in my mind showed Santa being used in truly serving children. The conversation was then switched to the possibility of "questionable" behavior from Santas being seen by children. That pretty much started my mind to thinking of ways to preserve and protect Santa rather than exploiting him out of Season. Then came a role that made me ponder further. Many of you know that I am an actor. In June and early July I starred in a production of David Auburn's "Proof", a Pulitzer prize winning play about a mathematician and his daughters. He dies after a long struggle with mental illness and so the play is about his family coping with the possibility of his youngest daughter having the same tendencies. I played the part of Robert, the mathematician. In rehearsal, my question was constantly "is the audience going to think of Robert or of Santa going crazy?" Strong language was modified by my director who knew my concerns. The color red became cursed for me. I did not want Santa associated with this character. Though I ended up with great press over my portrayal of this tortured character the experience left me with further feeling that for myself I must protect Santa from being the object of defamation. I have been studying seriously the subject of acting from workshop to workshop all Summer. I have been given various job prospects within the field as well. To be an effective actor you must also know yourself. After all, acting is immitation of life. I have come to another realization, Santa is not John. Rather, John portrays Santa. Why is this important? Because I feel that many of us in this industry look at ourselves as if we are Santa himself rather than as actors portraying a part. The further I have gone into a study of myself I realize that Basil Rathbone and I have alot in common. He always said that Sherlock Holmes tried to take over his life when not put under control. Santa has become the same for my life. By my becoming a 24/7/365 Santa I find that he has stifled me in so many ways including relationships with family and old friends, career, and creatively. I cannot get additional parts onstage due to my outward appearance as Santa. Musically, I am typecast as a holiday act only. People that I know and love are sometimes stand-offish with me after the Season. I never knew that my biggest blessing and source of outreach in my community could also be a burden. So, after coming this far you might think I am quitting. On the contrary. I am taking my life back for myself and placing Santa where I feel he needs to be - for his protection and for my sanity. Santa is the vehicle by which I spread love and joy, often in a way of secret giving. I often think of Nicholas wrapped in a cloak dropping bags of gold in windows of the needy - which we know he did. I want to use the guise of Santa for that very thing. Also, I am surrounded by two industries that would actually enjoy a Santa that they can get to their specifications. After talking these over with mentors, customers, booking agents, theater folks, and most importantly God and my wife I have come to this decision: I am breaking with modern tradition in order to salvage the historical tradition of Santa - come New Year 2013 I am going to shave my whiskers and take on the search for the best traditional set I can afford. I am going to honor St. Nicholas by using the image for secret giving and good deeds as ever and will continue on as my community's Santa. But the jobs that John can do on his own, John will do without Santa. My prayer is that the Master of St. Nicholas will be seen first and foremost in my life. And if I can use Santa for His glory, I will - as a tool and not as a way of living. I am 34 years old, overweight, and with a history of heart disease in my family. I have to do something about it. When I look back of Santas like Jim Yellig, James Reilly, Charlie Howard, and even my friend Jay Long - and modern friends like Phil Wenz, Mike Reilly, Dutch Schrap, and others - I see a link to the Santa of James Edgar and others who started the tradition in our country purely going back to the secret giving of St. Nicholas. It is a decision that has taken some thought, but I had to make it. I am insuring that if I say or do something stupid in life, Santa will not be the first thing seen and mocked. He will be in a special place each year. Friends, I urge everyone to look inside themselves. Is Santa benefitting you or the children? What about in August or May or whatever other month? Is Santa holding you back? Is he more than a part you portray? Sometimes the reality is that we need to wake up from the dream. Don't stop portaying Santa. After 28 Seasons I am not quitting. Rather, we all must put him into perspective. Trim that chin and spend some time out of red. It actually feels pretty darn good sometimes. If we truly believe that we are called to be Santa and that he enters through the heart then these things won't matter. The love is what matters. Red suit or not we all could use that in our lives.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

A reminder of why I became a Santa's helper.

It is the look in their little eyes, the smile on their little faces and the unconditional love and belief in Santa that makes me want to do what I do. I think each one of us can look back over the years and remember one special visit on your knee or have several that may stand out if you have done this for several years. One of my most memorable came this past season when a little girl came up to visit Santa. The only request that this child wanted was for her famiy to get along for the Christmas season. Although this request caught me off gaurd for a moment, I quickly thought and told her that I would say a special prayer for her and for her to also say a prayer and maybe the magic of Christmas would touch their hearts. I guess I'll never know how her Christmas turned out but I like to think it was a great year for her and her family. Those special moments when a childs faith and trust in Santa fully are what make it worth wild.

Santa Brian of SC

Santa Brian of SC

 

You only get so many....

This coming August will mark one year since my Dad went to Heaven. As the holidays approached last year I began to think of all the people who celebrate Christmas but don't put up a tree or decorations. Now don't get me wrong to each their own.. And there are many reasons as to why. The most common I have heard is they don't have that many visitors and they don't want to deal with the mess to clean up. But last year missing my Dad it hit me. We only get so many birthdays in a life time so make a cake. We only get so many years with our children before they grow up, So play ball or dolls with them. And we only get so many Christmas' to enjoy. So put up a tree and decorate.......... A few years ago my wife and I bought one of those $600 pre lite trees on sale after Christmas for $50. It stands about 9ft tall and comes in four heavy sections. I know some day I will be to old to be able and handle that size tree and most likely will have to use a smaller one. But none the less I will only have so many Chrismas' here on this earth and I vow to always decorate and have a tree. No matter how big or small.

Santa Brian of SC

Santa Brian of SC

 

Christmas' Remembered

Though its only June it will soon be time to turn our attention to Christmas. The tree will go up, the house will be decorated and the yard will be all a glow with Christmas scenery. It is my favorite time of year. Each year we drag out a thousand lights, drop cords and spend a few good hours setting up the yard for passer’s by the kids and us to enjoy. Each year I think back to how magical those Christmas’ were when I was a kid and how Christmas eve getting together with family seemed perfect just like in the movies. As you get older though sometimes the movie seems more like “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation”. I remember those years when I woke up at 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 AM and could not go back to sleep or waking up and sneaking to the living room and not seeing anything under the tree where Santa had come. But never fear when we woke up the next morning there were seemingly ton’s of toys under the tree. I remember the first football uniform, the first bike…. It was a Jaws bike with a banana seat. And of course the Atari game system. I played that thing all morning and into the night. Boy how games have come a long way now. Also remember back to past Christmas Eve’s and the fun had with Family that have long since past away and sometimes wish we could go back and soak in those nights around the dinner table and opening presents. I don’t remember the presents from back then but I do remember the good times we had. Not only was that time magical but family and parents made it more special. Now I try my best to make this time of year just as magical or more for my kids. After all this is Christmas that’s right CHRISTmas not Xmas. The reason for the season was the baby in the manger we celebrate at this time of year. Jesus’ birthday. When I got married years ago my wife’s grandmother had a birthday party every year for Jesus and would let off balloons and the whole nine yards. I know the world wants us to not offend any one and call it a holiday tree or year end celebrations. But as for me I am thankful there are still some out there that refuse to give in and still celebrate Christmas. So from my family to your’s MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Santa Brian of SC

Santa Brian of SC

 

Ponderings About the Heart of Being Santa

As I sit and ponder this holiday of Christmas and what it means, my mind often returns to the very root of what it is all about - love. I recall that that first Christmas brought the greatest gift of love ever given, the only Son of God who would later die on the cross for the wrongs of all mankind now and forever. I like to think of the love of a mother, Mary, as she wrapped her new born in swaddling clothes. I like to think that she was overfilled with pride as the shepherds came to see her child, and then seeing that pride overfilled and mixed with wonderment as the Magi came with their gifts. Then my mind moves forward about thirty-three years to a time when that same baby, now a man, hung on that cross and died to raise again the third day. No greater love has there ever been nor will there ever be again. Then, along the same theme of love, I recall a man about three centuries later who loved his fellow man enough to give secretly to take care of their needs. This man suffered persecution in his lifetime for his personal belief and ministry to the cause of that Savior. But he overcame his obstacles by simply giving. What an example of love for all of us was that man, Nicholas. Today, both events are wrapped each year into one package as Santa Claus delivers gifts to the children of the World each and every Christmas. And why does he do this? Because of love, the same timeless message that started it all. We in this Santa Claus community, or Christmas Industry, have joined into something that we often do not realize is greater than ourselves. We are the ones who bare the example, ideals, and principles of Santa Claus to the entire World, and even though we only seem to do it for a short time each year we really do it all the time. The children of all ages are our main focus, but there are others that we often forget. They are the ones who do the same thing that we do - the brothers and sisters of the red suit. You may think that this is not true, but there is too much evidence. When we allow our egos and personal arrogance to get in front of an encouraging word to a brother or sister who might really need it, we are ignoring the very fabric of what it means to be Santa. We are forgetting love which is the very basis for what we do. When you love your fellows it seems that the whole mindset changes. Instead of the thought of someone stealing another's high dollar appearance one can turn it around to being that the children in that area will receive the love from Santa that they deserve. Love, understanding, compassion, and pride in our collective selves is what will make us better Santas - brotherhood. When I think of the Santa Claus Hall of Fame I see the men and why they are truly deserving of the honor of being there. They were the best Santas they could and can be. Why are they? Because they made it their legacy and did their utmost to share and spread love. They should be inspirations to all of us to do the same. Yes, they did some awesome things in the suit. But when you learn to truly be Santa by learning to first and foremost love others including your brethren, all of the other things will instantly follow along. All the success that a Santa can have is not genuine unless there is true love of others. As we walk down this road of life, occasionally taking the ol' sleigh for a spin, let us try with our utmost sincerity to just be Santa and to love one another. We are a family after all, and even though a family has ups and downs they come out on top. With love in our minds and hearts, may the Santa family always share the true Spirit of Christmas with both the children of the World. But may we always share that same Spirit of Love with our peers - our Claus Family. Remember these words. It is not the fancy costume, the real or traditional beard, the fraternal organizations, the events, or the most extensive resume that makes the Santa. It is the heart. Share it.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Christmas Every Day

In one of his most memorable holiday recordings, Elvis asks a poignant question. “Why can’t every day be like Christmas?” It is a good and valid question as we look at the times in which we live. These are tough times for many, and some would even go as far as to say that these are faithless times at that. This writer would disagree, and I would venture to say that Christmas is here to stay as long as we allow it to. The message of Christmas is riddled with the theme of peace on Earth and goodwill to men. These are not concepts that must be lived once a year. These are life principles that can not only follow our lives every day but can also enrich both mind and heart throughout every time we face. Again, as we look at the meaning of Christmas and the first true Gift of Christmas we find that another key element is love. This is an unconditional love that spreads from the Baby of the Nativity to the entirety of mankind. This, too, can walk with us and empower us to carry out the task of creating peace. Ultimately, if we truly want Christmas to last every day in the hearts of those living in these times it is up to each and every one of us to live by the principles set forth. To make it happen requires us to only do one thing – a good and caring deed for another. And then it becomes a chain reaction as one good deed deserves another and another and another. Elvis finishes the song with the statement, “What a wonderful world this would be.” Indeed this is correct. If we can put aside so many of the negative things in life and can pick up and retain the messages of Christmas we can learn of peace and if we can learn of it we can obtain it with some hard work. They are timeless and they are correct in every particular. As we walk day by day may we be challenged to not only remember the message of Christmas, but also to live it to bring the wonderful back to a world that needs it.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

"And Santa, Don't Forget the Pepsi!"

Each Christmas Season that goes by has its share of interesting events. Some are sad, some are happy, and some are down right funny. Also, as the years go by it seems that everything starts earlier and earlier. I always guage the time of year by my birthday, November 5. Usually I begin the week after. However, this year I began the day before. So, my birthday found me sitting in the Picture Me Studio of my local Wal-Mart. For the sake of the following story alone I was happy to be spending my birthday in this way. It started out as an ordinary shift of Santa pictures and the children were really excited to be seeing Santa. I had taken the contract through the Kringle Group to be at two of our local Wal-Marts in November for early pictures with Santa, also doing a shift at the local Sears store since the studios are owned by the same company. I arrived with bells on, literally. The first few sessions went by rather routinely. The requests were for the usual things such as Barbie and 3DS Nintendos (I always like to get reactions from the kids so I always joke with those asking for video games that Santa is a real toymaker and ask if they would like a wooden soldier instead.) Of course, Santa must always be prepared for the unexpected. Then he showed up, a young man of about six years of age with a blue turtle neck, a brown vest, and a smile as big as Christmas. "Why hello there," I said. "Hello!" he replied, coming to sit on my knee. "What can I get you this Christmas?" I asked between shots. "I want a plate of cheeseburgers," he said in a very serious tone. "Are there any toys you might like?" I asked, trying not to giggle. "Nah," he replied as we took our last photo. As we finished our interview I reminded him to be a good boy and to be sure to listen in school and to his parents. He nodded his head yes and turned to leave with his mother. As he rounded the corner of the studio he turned and came back in a quick pace to me. "And Santa," he said, "don't forget the Pepsi!" Then he waved and was gone. That was it for me and the photo crew. We enjoyed a great chuckle from that request. I believe that out of all the birthday cards and well wishes I received, that young man brought me the best one yet!

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Post Christmas Let-Down

Today it hit: the post-season "let-down". After a very busy Christmas, things are strangely quiet. No frantic last minute callers pleading to try to work them in the schedule or fielding web site inquires or preparing for or appearing at the numerous events this year. It really hit today because I could eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel without my two scrambled with bacon being interrupted by the little folk. Ah, how fleeting is fame! At least the trees are still up and will be my festive pals through New Year's - which I hope for anyone reading these words is a happy one! Cheers! Santa Leonard

Santa Leonard

Santa Leonard

 

Welcome to Our Corner of the Santa Realm!

Greetings to All! Our names are Leonard and Emily Hutchens, and welcome to our little corner of the Santa Realm! That is what Emily, my wife and Mrs. Claus to my Santa, tagged our time we spend at Santa workshops, retreats, and other Santa functions. I will remember the 1st function that we attended. It was a Roundtable organized by Santas Jac Grimes and Cliff Snider of High Point, NC. As we were driving home, I was aware of an inner calm that had been brought about by the fellowship of others attending the event. Looking out of her car window, Emily remarked, "I wish we could stay in the Santa Realm forever." She went on to describe her feelings of inner peace and contentment that she was experiencing because of the unmistakable joy that the others shared with us over our weekend. As ambassadors of the "Santa Realm" isn't it our function to extend this sense of wonder, magic, and joy of the Christmas season to the children who visit us, the families that invite us into their homes, and others that cross our paths during the rushed Christmas season? Let us take this a step further. Should we not do what we can to extend this sense of peace and good will not only through Christmas, but for the remainder of the year as well? Let's make this pact with each other as brother Santas - that we will do everything that we can to live and treat others as if it is Christmas each day! Blessings to All in the Realm, Santa Leonard

Santa Leonard

Santa Leonard

 

A Milestone

Next month will be something of a milestone for me -- 40 years. No, not my birthday (I wish). It was forty years ago that I first donned the Red Suit. At age 8, I was picked to be Santa Claus in our third grade Christmas Play. I don’t remember how or why I was chosen for the role. Maybe it was just fate. I don’t even remember the title of the play or any of my lines. I do remember singing “Santa Claus Is Comin To Town” and vaguely remember that I played “Kris Kringle” and that no one knew that I was “Santa Claus” until the end. What I remember most from that day was everything happening before and after the play. I remember my grandfather showing up to help me get ready. He was there to glue whiskers to my face. I remember how itchy they felt. Once the whiskers were securely fastened, he then proceeded to spray paint my head white. I still remember the smell and the white cloud floating in the air. My Santa Claus suit consisted of a red snow suit, a black ladies belt (probably my mom’s), and my cowboy boots. I wasn’t too surprised that Papa was there to help me get into character. After all, when I was 6-years old he took me to the Rhode Island State House on St. Patrick’s Day to present the Governor with a pot of gold (chocolates). He glued a different set of whiskers to my chin that day and instead of white hairspray it was grey. After the play, I remember Miss Hallburg, my third grade teacher telling me how well I did and how proud she was of me. I remember there were a lot of people at our third grade production. There were lots of people there; people from the newspaper, relatives, and neighbors; and Papa talked to every one of them! He was like a celebrity! Of course, back then I had no idea then of my grandfather’s local fame or his secret identity. To me he was just Papa. But to everyone else he was Santa Claus. Today there is a street named after him and a bench with his name on it. The bench resides next to the dock where he would sit most days and welcome everyone offloading from the Prudence Ferry. An oil painting of my grandfather hangs near the entrance of our Town Hall as if still greeting visitors. Looking back I wish I had an opportunity to talk to Papa about being Santa Claus. It was only when he passed that I took up the role as Santa Claus full time. I like to think he is with me at my appearance or at least watching.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

The Long Hiatus

Friends, I know that many of you have missed me here on Clausnet. How do I know? By all of the nice private emails and such, which I really appreciate. I thought I would let everyone know why I have been gone for so long. Well, the truth is simple - I have been busy. As many of you know I have a Bluegrass band named Hominy Falls. Our music has taken us many places in a short period of time and across four states so far. We even had the honor of playing the International Bluegrass Music Association Convention a few short weeks ago. One of the funniest things about it is this, even with the band I get recognized. I tell both adults and kids that "Santa has to have a hobby too!" I always assure them that Mrs. Claus has everything under control and I am in constant contact with her and the elves. Christmas is well taken care of. One fun thing that has come out of this is actual shows as the "Bluegrass Santa with his Secret Elves Band." The first ever will take place on December 3rd in McConnelsville OH at the Ohio Valley Opry. A new Christmas CD is also in the creative processes. Between travelling, I have managed to fill up my schedule for this year with some new things. I decided to leave the Mall where I have been for the past five years. I felt at close of last Season that it was more of a "photo mill" than a "memory maker" and I want my Santa to mean so much more to the children. There was just no time to talk with them and I had to make a change. Many new things are coming my way this Season, including the role of Father Christmas in our community's production of CS Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." I was also able a few weeks ago to have a Santa Photo Shoot with my friend and mentor Jay Long. I will post a few of those in a few moments. My friends, I have found that great things can happen when you decide to keep the Santa attitude all year. Give the people around you something, whether it be a gift, a song, or just a smile from Santa. I have been blessed with wonderful opportunity for doing just that. And I give God all credit. There will be silent periods from me on and off as I have so much work to do promoting our band and especially working on my portion of the Jim Yellig Workshop. Please, remember that I love you all and wish you all the best in the bond of peace and brotherhood. Say hello and give all the kids my love, Santa John in WV

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

one step closer

Good morning fellow kringles. I have taken another step in becoming a better santa. This past july we had a baby girl, miss sabrina she was born on july 3rd, 4 days before my birthday. Well anyway, my wife said duringthe week and a half that i took off from work, that i would look really good with a full beard. i told her that if she would let me dye it when i played santa that i would, well, i did and it has come in really full. I am hoping that it will be a little longer by nov. 12th. That is my first booking. i am doing a antique and collectable auction for Santas castle. So i ordered the ben nye white and the silver grey. So keep your collective fingers crossed that i have the power to grow a little more. and if there are any tips on how to apply or tricks youve learned about the coloring, please let me know...Have a great day, and remeber anytime is a great time for christmas music!!!!

YoungSanta

YoungSanta

 

Something I Never Thought About

Last week I gave an interview to a regional publication for their upcoming December issue about being a real fulltime Santa Claus. It was the typical type interview discussing my life growing up as Santa and being able to make it a fulltime career. I do know that very few have had the opportunities and the good fortune that has been unfolding in my life ever since I was 4 years old. During the conversation with the reporter, he asked what I plan on doing when I retire. The question really threw me. Unlike 99% of other Santas who become the character while working a different job and made it a hobby/part time thing or a guy who retires from years of work someplace to grow a real beard and then Santa becomes his retirement hobby/job, I have only been a professional year round Santa. The question of retiring from Santa was a good one. I am a little over a year from turning 50 years old and the Santa business has been very good to me. DeAnn and I have made some good investments, so planning for that part of our future is secure. Like most everyone else there is always some sort of health issues that can or could pop up. But that is under control too. So the question goes back to what the reporter asked… “What are you going to do when you retire?” Well, as odd as it seems to some, I don’t want to be Santa forever. In fifteen to seventeen years when I am in my mid 60s I do plan on retiring from the professional world of Santa. Most folks retire from being a labor, lawyer, teacher, accountant or such but does someone really retire from being Santa? When I retire that is preciously what I will be doing. DeAnn and I look forward to just traveling and enjoying not doing anything at all. I’ll let my hair and beard grow out and then go fishing. And as for Santa, well I look forward to having him go back to being what he was to me before I became him…a magical and inspirational elf that brings the message of love, hope, and peace in a sometime dreary world. And I think that I will appreciate Santa more by not being him. At one time I thought 50 years old was a long way away. But it is sneaking up on me. Retirement is a while away, at least for now, but with all aspects of life you have to plan ahead.

Legendary Santa Claus

Legendary Santa Claus

 

Getting ready for the holidays

It's getting close again and I have been working on ideas to share with my great Christmas Family. Here in Peoria IL the stores are already dicorating for all types of special days and one for me is halloween. The costume stores have great ideas and stuff you as the Christmas family might check out for make up and other things that your emaginations can think of . I'm working on some new wadrobe ideas like a OLD ENGLISH sleeping night shirt and matching hat and slipers . Also made two more old english long sleve shirts and some red and green elf hats and two new Santa Toy bags and a small wig bage that has pockets on it and a pedustole type head holder to keep my head and beard clean and strate when I go on trips and such. When all is done I will post pictures and how to do things I make so if you can use my ideas to add more to your Santa wardrobe. GOD Bless and remember you are all so special to me . Big Jim Santa of Peoria ILL.

Big Jim Santa

Big Jim Santa

 

santa training

okay guys i need a little help here. I am one of the santas at santas castle in storm lake iowa. Most of our guys are the once a year type. we are getting a few more that want to be the guy in red alittle more often. WHat i would like to do is have a sort of training so our quality is the best it can be. I know we have all see the the guys that are picked at random, because they kinda fit the siut. So is there any formal resources out there that might help guid me along. i know we have this wonderful resource here. i have ofcourse taken away a lot of knowledge here and i am no where near done. Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

YoungSanta

YoungSanta

 

New Kringle

Hello there all!!! just thought i would let you all know that miss sabrina joy was born july 3rd. She just a little sweetie and so little. I didnt realize the bond between father and daughter until i have one.

YoungSanta

YoungSanta

 

Mountain Culture & Christmas

Living in these hills can be very interesting, especially when you hear all of the tales that go along with them. There are ghost stories, there are stories about the War Between the States, there are stories about feuds (Hatfields and McCoys occurred an hour and a half from my door), there are old ballads. But the stories that I am going to share for the sake of this blog are the Christmas stories, as mountain culture still has a peculiar way of celebrating this day every year. First, I have to explain that there are two Christmases back in the hills. There is Old Christmas and there is New Christmas. You see, the folks in the hills never forgot the original date their family celebrated when they settled the rugged areas of then Northwestern Virginia. In the early 1700s the calendar was changed, and it left a twelve day gap from the New Christmas to the Old Christmas. Hence, the "Twelve Days of Christmas." In many areas to this day there are twelve days of feasting and celebrating, which also includes the practice of "belsnickeling" or "kringling." The first gift giver of Christmas came into the woods and hills of this region in about the same time as the early settlers. He descended down with them from the settlements and stories of Pennsylvania where most of these folks had either lived for a while or had travelled through. He was the Belsnickle or Furry Nicholas. He was a mischievious fellow and would often deal punishment out on the children in an interesting way. Dressed in buckskins and animal fur with soot on his face, the wild man bearing gifts would come in and throw down candy upon the floor. The child who would grab it without asking first was whacked on the bottom with a birch rod by the Belsnickle. Eventually, folks made a game out of the coming of the Belsnickle. To begin, the character visited homes in a similar way as many Santas do today. Often, he would wear a mask or disguise his face. Being a neighbor or a family member, the Belsnickle would amaze the children by telling them all of their misdeeds from the year before. The fun was then guessing who it was after he left. Over the years, "belsnickling" became a sport of the younger men in the villages who spent the Twelve Days of Christmas much like they would Halloween. They dressed in wild costumes and pulled pranks. Many a cabin had its chimney blocked with a sheet. The band of mischeif makers would laugh as the family ran out of their home which had filled with smoke. Today, the Belsnickle still visits some of the remote areas in the northern mountains of our state. He is still as ornrey as ever. He pretty much remains there as the new guy, Santa Claus, moved in after Harper's Weekly started showing pictures of him at the North Pole in the 1860s. But that is another story. For pictures of the Belsnickle please visit my gallery. Friends, I encourage you to seek out the history of Christmas in your area. It is amazing what you will discover.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Looking Back to Move Forward

Have you ever climbed a hill or mountain? I sure have, living in the Mountain State. My Dad and I used to visit our state parks. At one such park, on top of a large mountain and overlooking what a sign said was five states, was a large log tower. I can remember visiting this with Dad. Now, when I reach the top I often look back to see what obstacles and terrain I have passed over to get to that spot. I try to recall every large rock on which I have stumbled and where it is so that I don't stumble on the way back down. I get a new perspective on what I am doing and how I can proceed forward and either meet or remove a challenge that will be ahead of me on my journey back down. I have found, through practical experience that this is a good rule for life. Over the past several years (and again rearing its head in certain circles today) the Santa community has done some climbing. There have been many ups and many downs. And, through it all, we are beginning to lose something that is very dear to our community. We are forgetting to pass on to the next generation the way that they can successfully reach the mountain top. We have too many in our community that are bickering over the size of the stones in the path and are ignoring the responsibility we have to one another in this mutual trek. Through Phil Wenz I am gaining a great respect for Charles W. Howard, one of the greatest Santas to ever live. In conversation we have discussed the fact that Charlie left no stones unturned when it came to Santa. He learned all he could to develop his character, then added his own personality. But in the end what did he do? He didn't keep all that he had learned to himself and hoard information like a squirrel does acorns. He didn't bicker with other Santas about their flaws both private and public. Instead, he did the most wonderful thing that he could ever do - he passed the information on. And, posthumously, he still does. In my mind, the Santa world should be much like the guilds of the Middle Ages. The guild was a group of like minded artisans and craftsmen who worked to preserve and maintain a standard in their professions. Each member felt responsible for the younger members and passed on a legacy of art and skill to them. That is what every experienced Santa should be doing, as opposed to fighting the battles of bygone days and raking up contention as some continue to do. There comes a time when we need to step back and look at what we are doing and correct it. To me, it seems that a good many are just not willing to move forward. I pray for these. The state of Santahood is fragile. It needs to be lifted up and standards and practices (as well as trade secrets) need to be passed on and in a positive way. We need to leave a clean legacy for the future. We need to pass on the tenates that make a true Santa. If we can relearn to do that, then there is hope for us yet. Just a hunch, but I think we need to look back now before we make one step forward and fall on our faces.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Views on an old truth about Santa

When we think of Santa, we should ultimately come away with this truth: Santa Claus = benevolence. He is the supreme example of selfless giving, next to the Meaning of Christmas. We all know that Santa gives and gives to all people with the truest of love and good will. As Santa Clauses in our own right we too are called to give to the children of all ages that we serve as well. In the short time that we come into contact with them, we give the children something to believe in. Perhaps it is a smile to combat a tear. Perhaps it is a word of encouragement given at the right moment. It is something that they will remember. While we deliver this service to the children we encounter in its truest form, we must not forget that we owe the same to our brothers in red. This, I feel, is something that we should all strive to do. We should encourage one another to excell in our ventures in the name of Claus. We should challenge one another to go the extra mile of kindness in mentoring and in general fellowship. Whatever endeavor is taking place, if there is a potential for making glad the heart of childhood we should all be willing to lend a helping hand and fond encouragement. The least we can do is lift up a brother to succeed and be the best Santa that he can be. This applies also to all Christmas folk and even the occasional Easter Bunny So, let us all take a moment this week and reflect upon our actions toward our brothers in red, our neighbors in the community of Christmas. Are we doing all we can to encourage one another in the true spirit of Santa? Or are we only showing negativity and indifference? I pray that I am an encouragement to others everyday, as we all should be. Remember the words of the Reason for the Season, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Who Is "Your" Santa? - A Question About Why We Portray Him The Way We Do

Just got back from a lovely trip, travelling from my home in Saint Albans, West Virginia, across the state of Kentucky and to Santa Claus, Indiana. To me, this town is the cradle for most of what we as "modern" Santas do today. A good part of the protocols of being Santa began in that wonderful place. As he has told me before in conversation, Phil Wenz reiterrated what could be referred to as "Yellig's Rules of Being Claus" to the attendees. For the sake of this entry I want to dwell on the first rule which is research. Santa Jim (as does Santa Phil now) believed in researching the character to know who you were portraying and why. You might call that mechanics. And indeed this does make sense. Think of yourself, what do you know about yourself? Hopefully, a whole lot. You should be able to tell everyone all about yourself. Well, as we "become" Santa we should be able to do the same thing with him. In doing so we invite the children both young and old into the world of Santa, into a world that they will either believe in or will reject. I have witnessed too many Santas that have failed to bring realism to their role because of a lack of knowledge about Santa. Ultimately, as ambassadors to childhood and childlike faith we need to do the very best we can to instill belief and overall hope. Maybe it was the atmosphere, maybe it was the presentation, or maybe it was the spirit of Santa Jim whispering in my ear the other day. The question kept coming to me, even though I have spent and continue to spend much of my free time learning about this person I become. Who is "my" Santa? How does my portrayal relate to that of Saint Nicholas? How does my portrayal relate to that of even Santa Jim or Charlie Howard? How does my portrayal connect with that of Santa Jay Long, my mentor Santa? I have thought hard about this, and I want to share with you what I have come up with so far. The bond that connects my portrayal to theirs is first and foremost a love for others. A Santa has to first and foremost love others, children and adults. At the same time, my character portrayal is a mixture of the facts. I portray Santa in a spiritual way, honoring not only Nicholas but also Christ. I portray him as a humble toymaker, which is also something that does go back to Nicholas and other traditions. I picture and relate to him as a man who has travelled the world bringing joy and love, migrating from his home to the remote North where he can find solitude and peace. Are there really elves? Well, I like to call them helpers. What about reindeer? Not always does Santa use them. Do I know about where both of these come from? Yes, because I am Santa and I need to know. But in all things, I do my best to make him a living and breathing person for those who visit with me. And in all that I do or show, I make sure they feel the love that Santa has for them. This is going to be a question that I truly ponder for a while. Very deeply. I think it is one that we all should ponder. Who is "your" Santa? And may we all grow and aid one another with our findings.

John Johnson

John Johnson

 

Why Am I Supporting Claus Fest?

As most of the Santas here know, I am a fellow who is in favor of getting along. I am for peace in our community and for anything that will promote peace. I love anything that makes 1. children believe and 2. makes Santa a positive as opposed to a negative. Truthfully, I had my doubts about a national or even a regional convention when the original thread was posted. I even voiced my opinions not only here but also in private chat with a few other Santas. I remember well the turmoil of 2010 after Celebrate Santa. I remember well what some unnamed Christmas folk did. And I realize that CindyLu and Tim were there too. But the more I read about what Tim and CindyLu wanted to do, and read the posts showing the "boy scout" reasons for doing it I was intrigued. Peace and unity are majro factors for this event, not only with eachother as Santas but with a community who has been cheated also. I felt after reading what they were saying that they were honest and sincere in their approach. I honestly felt and still feel that there is nothing hidden in their motives. When CindyLu asked me to be their ambassador to WV, I said to my wife that it would not be hard to share information to the Santas of my state. But what would I tell them? Well, I told them what I knew and about the purposes for having this event. All I met was positive. Watching the progress of this event and seeing first hand what is being put into it just makes me want to try even more to do what I can for making it's vision a reality. Then there came a few negatives, some doubted that they would come and be a part of it. Well, that is going to happen. After speaking publically and privately with CindyLu about those negatives I strongly feel that there will be a big positive to come out of all of it. So, what began for me with suspicion from what had happened in the past, I have decided to make a positive for the future. Hopefully not just for me. I believe in the principles of Claus Fest, and the only way that the cause of unity and fellowship will occur is through my personal work to make it happen. The same with you, the only way that positive will be regained is by you stepping out with me and helping. It doesn't have to be ClausFest. It can be through FORBS and the Jamboree. It can be through posts here. It can be through any number of actions that support the brotherhood. When we try to find the positive there truly is no stopping us from building a great future together. I just hope that that is what ClausFest stands as in the future. I am happy to be able to help.

John Johnson

John Johnson

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